Sunday, April 1, 2012

Music: Dark Ambient and NeoClassical Dark Wave

Music plays an enormous part in Gothic subculture. Still, when the discussion turns to music it often revolves around the traditional bands, such as Siouxsie and the Banshees, Joy Division, The Sisters of Mercy, etc. or the more current industrial, dark wave or Goth rock bands. Of course, there's also the never-ending debate about where, or even if metal has a place in the subculture at all. As a person who listens to metal more than any other type of music...well, on second thought, I don't even want to start stirring the contents of that cauldron. In any event, there are a couple of other musical types that merit honorable mention; yet, they rarely seem to enter into the discussions. These include Dark Ambient and Neoclassical Dark Wave.

Dark ambient is a cousin to industrial music in that it is produced mainly as electronic music. As the name implies, this genre involves the use of minor chords and scales, dissonance and atmospheric sounds, which when combined, induce feelings of foreboding, melancholy and even dread. The Encylopedia of Electronic Music describes it this way: 

"Dark menacing soundscapes, very abstract, sometimes mechanical, but with no rhythm per se. Deep murky sounds and rumbles, devoid of any melodic structure, except for some short snatches of melody from time to time."

Although I might want to debate somewhat the encyclopedia's claim that the music generally has no rhythmic or melodic structure, it's description of Dark Ambient gives the newcomer a pretty accurate idea of what the music sounds like.I recommend listening to it after lighting a candle in an otherwise dark room. Just sit back and enjoy; let it take you where it will. 

Some Dark Ambient artists include Midnight Syndicate, Black Funeral and music from Mark Harvey's Pumpkinland series, which can be found here.

One of the best-known artists of this musical genre is Nox Arcana. The video below features a Nox Arcana piece entitled Night of the Wolf. The video itself is taken from EVIL, a Russian film directed by Oleg Fesenko.       

For quite a while I considered Dark Ambient and Neoclassical Dark Wave as virtually the same; and it's not unusual to find the two linked together. Still, my assumption was somewhat inaccurate. I suppose that my less-than-realistic believe resulted from the fact that both genres share some symphonic characteristics. Still, there are differences, and I now believe that Neoclassical Dark Wave should stand as a sub genre in its own right.

The New World Encyclopedia describes Neoclassical music in general as "a twentieth century development, particularly popular in the period between the two world wars, in which composers drew inspiration from music of the eighteenth century." It further defines neoclassicism as "a trend in which composers sought to return to aesthetic precepts associated with the broadly defined concept of classicism..." In other words, Neoclassical is music that can no longer be considered Classical simply because the period from which it derives its name ended in the early nineteenth century. Still, it is very similar in sound and musical structure to the great music of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.     

Last FM defines Neoclassical Dark Wave as a "music genre within the Dark Wave movement...characterized by the use of ethereal atmosphere and angelic female voices," which also "adds strong influences from classical music." It is not unusual then, for Neoclassical Dark Wave to incorporate influences, not only from the Classical period, but also from Baroque, Romantic and Impressionistic styles, all of which are often loosely referred to as Classical music. 

When considering Neoclassical Dark Wave, the important thing to remember is that although Classical in style, the music is dark--oh so dark. As with Dark Ambient, Goth Rock, Dark Industrial, and yes, many forms of Metal, this music incorporates the contrast of dissonance and angelic vocals; beautiful and ethereal arrangements quite capable of inducing feelings of despair and melancholy. 

Artists skilled in the creation of Neoclassical Dark Wave include Arcana, Autumn Tears and Dark Sanctuary. For your listening pleasure, I am including below the nearly twenty-minute version of Dark Sanctuary's Funeral Cry. 

In wrapping up this post I just want to point out that while the two above-mentioned styles may not necessarily fall under the auspices of so-called Goth music, they certainly are, in my opinion Gothic--and darkly beautiful. 



  1. it is also interesting to note, for me personally, that Joseph Vargo, who helped form Nox Arcana (which happens to be a beautifully dark band and aptly named 'the mysteries of the night'), is a gothic artist and created The Gothic Tarot deck and occupying compendium (a full book describing in acute detail every card in the 72 card deck). The Gothic Tarot deck is be the only tarot deck I will use. Joseph Vargo holds many talents indeed.


  2. I didn't know about his creating the Gothic Tarot deck, but I have seen some of his art. The man is a very talented individual.

  3. There is Black Aria 1&2 from Glenn Danzig that is great too in my opinion!

  4. "Son of Man" by Ulver. So powerful, terrifyingly beautiful, unsettlingly dark, yet uplifting and luminous. It definitely inspires awe. Listen to this song from start to finish... then breathe again.

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